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Yesterday you may have seen my tweets from the Big Data Privacy Workshop at MIT hosted by the Whitehouse and MIT.  The overall framework for this activity is described on the Whitehouse site and this specific workshop is described in more detail on the MIT site for the event.  Although it was a good event for interaction between privacy experts outside of government to interact with folks inside the executive branch formulating policy, this single event is not the full story behind what is happening on the privacy front at MIT.

For some time SAP has been a sponsor of the Big Data research activity at MIT.  During 2013 industry partners and MIT faculty formed a privacy working group which is made-up of MIT faculty and industry representatives including Google, Facebook, SAP and even the NSA.   The team is led by Daniel Weitzner who served as a member of the Whitehouse staff 2011-2012 on IT topics such as cybersecurity.  The current plan is for this working group to supply our findings to the whitehouse for their consideration in future policy deliberations.

The strategy for the privacy working group is to drill down on various example scenarios to examine aspects of privacy in detail within the context of real-life situations.  The scenarios range from using cell phone data for improving conditions in developing nations (led by the Gates Foundation) to using medical record information to improve healthcare.  Of the 9 active scenarios, SAP is engaged in two working groups: consumer privacy in retail  and the healthcare record privacy scenarios.

Preliminary results are expected about mid-year.  It is my understanding that the results of our work will be shared with the Whitehouse and the public. Those of us in the group hope our efforts will result in a better understanding of the tradeoffs between privacy and the ability to use big data to improve our everyday lives.

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